Monday, 31 March 2014

Crash Team Racing review

I'm back! This time we're doing another themed month, this time with 5 Crash Bandicoot games! We'll start with the last game made by Naughty Dog, Crash's original developers. Yes, it is a racing game, but it's considered on of the best racing games out there, and it probably is.

Story-6/10: Yes, a kart racing game with a story. Granted it isn't exactly the most amazing story, but having a story at all is a step up from most racing games. It's also suitably weird for a game about bandicoots racing as well.

One day in the Australian archipelago that Crash and his enemies live on, all of them get together for a racing competition, but are interrupted by a message from an alien who goes by the name Nitros Oxide. He tells the racers that he will turn the planet Earth into a parking lot if they don't play his game, Survival of the Fastest.

The rules of the game require collecting 4 keys and prove that they are the fastest in the entire galaxy. Crash and the others get to work upgrading their karts in order to save their planet.

There is a good amount of voice acting from the cast of characters, but only a few lines are used for each character, so be prepared to hear "Here's one for the road!" and "Bandicoot power!" a lot. There are also a good amount of cutscenes, one for before and after each boss fight, and a few more for Oxide.

The Crash series has a habit of introducing  lots of new characters each game, and while this game only has one new character, Oxide is definitely one of my favorite Crash characters. He's egotistical, and obviously only got the "Fastest in the Galaxy" title only by cheating.

Gameplay-9/10: CTR plays exactly like you'd think it does, hold the acceleration button to move, drift to get some more speed, and use a plethora of items to knock your opponents out, but the game does manage to do some interesting things with these mechanics.

For one, drifting is improved from most other racing games, as you can boost up to three times in a row while drifting. This is incredibly useful for gaining speed, and finding the tons of shortcuts throughout the game.

It also does some interesting things with the items, too. The game has your basic selection of items, a potion you drop behind you, homing missiles, bombs that roll on the ground, a clock that freezes time, and the ever popular TNT crate, which sticks to opponents heads for a few seconds before exploding.

However, you can upgrade these weapons by collecting 10 Wumpa Fruit, which give added effects, or just makes the item's effect last longer. The fully upgraded potion turns into a red potion that slows down opponents, and the TNT crate becomes a nitro crate, which instantly explodes.

Items can be found in crates emblazoned with a question mark, while Wumpa Fruit can be found in singles alone on the track, or in crates, which grant you a large group of fruit.

There are also a good amount of characters in the game, most  of which you get by unlocking. You start off with eight characters; Crash, his sister Coco, the polar bear Polar, the tiger Pura, Dr. Neo Cortex, Tiny Tiger, Cortex's sidekick N. Gin, and my favorite, Dingodile.

There are also 3 different stats for each of them, which are Top Speed, Acceleration, and handling. Though, at the start, there are basically only 4 characters, as each character shares the same stats with one other character (Eg. Tiny shares stats with Dingodile, Crash shares stats with Cortex). Almost of the unlockable characters do have unique stats though.

The game has your basic modes, Quick Race, Time Trial, which is the only way to unlock Dr. Nefarious Tropy, but the mode everyone plays is Adventure mode, which is one of the best ideas I've ever seen in a racing game.

The basic gist of Adventure mode is that you need to win 4 trophies in an area, race the boss, and then move onto the next area, but it is much more than that. You have your basic races against 7 other racers, but there's also the Token Challenge, and the Relic Race.

The Token Challenge requires you to find 3 letters scattered around the track. The letters are C, T, and R. They're usually found in places that are very tricky to get to, but the real challenge comes with having to get first place in the race as well. Winning the challenge will unlock you of four colored CTR tokens, which can be used to unlock another mode.

The Relic Race is basically an advanced Time Trial. You have to race around the track quickly, with a time limit that's insanely hard to do, but you're given special crates to break open. Breaking these crates stops the timer for a few seconds, giving you time to make it to the end. The Relics you are rewarded with come in three different flavors; sapphire, gold, and platinum. Getting platinum relics basically requires being a god, so I didn't do it. Getting all the Relics is also the only way to see the true ending.

There are also Crystal Challenges, where you have to race around one of the game's 4 battle arenas and collect 20 Crystals within 2 minutes. It's harder than it sounds, trust me. Winning the Crystal Challenge will get you a purple CTR token, which is exactly like a regular CTR token.

As said two paragraphs ago, getting all the CTR tokens unlocks a new thing. Specifically, Cup Challenges. These act like they do in all racing games, do good at races to get more points and get the most points to win. These reward you with 5 colored gems and 5 unlockable racers.

There are also bosses, which really act all the same. They zoom ahead of you, and drop fully powered items behind them. All it comes down to is getting ahead of them, and if you do that, you'll win. Though, the final boss is very hard, even if you do get in front of him.

Graphics: 8/10: One of the things Naughty Dog was, and still are, known for is their amazing graphical capabilities, and CTR doesn't disappoint. Each of the 18 different tracks feel completely different from one another, and mostly focus on the various areas found in Crash 2, such as snowy mountains, sewers, and ancient ruins.

Each track has tons of details hidden in them, like polar bears trapped in ice, and it all looks very swell for a Playstation 1 game, though, this was late PS1, so I suppose it's only natural for it to look really good.

The character models, on the other hand, don't look too great. I understand that making them polygonal and less detailed was the only way to get the game to run with so many characters on screen at once, but they are so ugly. They don't really have any animations either.

However, this is slightly made up for in the winning screens, where each character has a more detailed model (Usually taken from one of the previous games) and unique animations for winning and losing.

An interesting fact is that the tires on the cars are actually sprites, which are designed to always face the camera, and have different sprites when the camera angle changes. Another interesting fact is that Nitros Oxide uses 3 different character models, while every other character uses up to 2.

Overall: 9/10: CTR is one of the best racing games ever made, period. It added a lot to racing games in general, and the only complaint I really have with it is that it's too short, but even then, it's still longer than your average kart racer. I'd suggest getting it on the Playstation Network, because it's probably really expensive to get it on disc.

Next time, we'll look at CTR's overlooked little brother.

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